Soft Cheese During Pregnancy

image001With so much advice out there about pregnancy, it can be tough to figure out exactly what is right and what isn’t. A good example of this is the question of eating soft cheese during pregnancy. Is this safe for you and for the baby? Some places say yes, some places say no, and others say…well, maybe. Here’s the definitive answer to whether it is okay to eat soft cheese during pregnancy.

Is It Safe to Eat Soft Cheese During Pregnancy?

The Answer

When it comes to eating soft cheese during pregnancy, the question should focus on where that cheese comes from. Cheese that has been pasteurized is typically safe to eat. Most cheeses available in the United States can be found in pasteurized forms, but some are still made with raw milk. Cheese made with raw milk might not be safe for you or the baby during pregnancy.

Why Avoid Soft Cheese Made of Raw Milk?

Why does this matter? Milk that has not been pasteurized can contain harmful bacteria, including Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria has been known to lead to serious problems for anyone, but especially for unborn babies because it can lead to devastating consequences, or even death, for the unborn child. When you are pregnant you have an even higher risk of contracting a problem like Listeria because your natural defenses against Listeria are lower during pregnancy.

Examples of Unsafe Soft Cheese During Pregnancy

Several cheeses that might include raw milk include Brie, Feta, Camembert, and blue-veined cheeses like Bleu Cheese, Roquefort, Gorgonzola, and some Mexican cheese, such as Queso Blanco, Queso Fresco, and Panela. Also keep in mind that any goats cheeses are likely not pasteurized, and these should be avoided as well.

Tips and Precautions

  • Read the package. Not sure if these contain raw milk? Check out the packaging. If it says they are made with pasteurized milk, eat up! But if there is any question in your mind as to where the cheese comes from, it’s better to be safe than sorry and avoid the soft cheeses.
  • High temperature can kill the possible risks. It is important to remember that these cheeses are not safe to eat raw, but if they are cooked, they might be okay. This is especially true of the blue-veined cheeses. So if you are eating a dish that has the cheese cooked to a high temperature in the sauce, it is probably heated enough to kill any bacteria that might be present. When it comes to eating cooked cheeses, however, you should still try to make sure that the cheese has been pasteurized in order to ensure maximum safety for you and your unborn child.

List of Safe and Unsafe to Eat Soft Cheese During Pregnancy

Still not sure what you can eat during pregnancy? This brief guide should clear up your questions.

Cheese Safe to Eat

  • Remember that hard cheeses are fine. That includes yummy varieties like gouda, gruyere, halloumi, jarlsberg, Lancashire, Orkney, parmesan, provolone, derby, edam, and the like. Smoked versions are also just fine to have when you are pregnant.
  • Some soft processed cheeses are fine, as long as they are made with pasteurized milk. These include cream cheese, cottage cheese, mozzarella, processed cheese spreads, quark, ricotta, and roulade, among others. You can also have yogurts, including crème fraiche, soured cream and the like.

Cheese Unsafe to Eat

When it comes to what not to eat, the list is a bit trickier.

  • Remember that if these are made with pasteurized milk, they are safe to eat – but most often, they are not. The list of no-nos during pregnancy includes mould-ripened soft cheeses like cambozola, camembert, brie, blue brie, chevre, taleggio, chaumes, pont l’eveque, and vacherin fribourgeois.
  • Avoid blue-veined cheeses, including all types of bleu cheese, bergader, shropshire blue, Danish blue, dolcelatte, gorgonzola, roncal, tomme, Roquefort, and similar cheeses.
  • Other soft cheeses to avoid include those made with goat’s milk or sheep’s milk, with names like torta del cesar and chabichou.

More Notes on Preventing Listeriosis During Pregnancy

Pregnant women are at a much higher risk of developing Listeria than others – in fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that pregnant women are 20 times more likely to contract the problem than other healthy adults. Though soft cheeses are a big culprit, it is important to remember that Listeria can be found on other foods.

  • Pregnant women should try to avoid eating hot dogs, deli meats, and luncheon meats unless they are piping hot. Avoid getting the juices from these meats on anything else, as that might spread contamination. Avoid refrigerated meat spreads or pates, as they might contain Listeria or other harmful bacteria.
  • Pregnant women should also avoid eating any refrigerated, smoked seafood. This includes lox, nova-style, kippered, smoked, or jerky seafoods. Remember that canned or shelf-stable smoked seafood is safe to eat.
  • No matter what foods you love, remember to keep basic safety tips in mind. Always wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating, cook any meats thoroughly before serving, and if you are having leftovers, reheat the foods until they are steaming hot. Avoid raw milk or products made with raw milk ingredients, eat perishable foods as soon as possible, and keep your kitchen scrupulously clean. By taking these careful steps and avoiding foods that are known to raise the risk of Listeria, you can have a healthy, safe pregnancy.